View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Holocaust Memorial Day

I was very pleased today to note the extensive coverage of this commemoration, across the television and internet. I was equally pleased to see how children and young people have become involved, now that the survivors are getting fewer and fewer, to tell the tale of horror. I know the facts as well as anybody else, although I was born some 20 years after the war. Each year, on 9 November, I mark Reichskristallnacht on my internet output, and this day, 27 January. But do I truly comprehend what the Holocaust actually meant? I've read Anne Frank's diaries, although I have not visited the museum in Amsterdam. I probably won't - accounts by others who have visited speak of being frogmarched through the building at speed, without opportunity to stand still and contemplate. Neither will I visit Auschwitz, but for a totally different reason. I could not take in the concept of visiting a site where over a million people were massacred on an industrial scale, and as an industrialised process - simply because they did not match the definition of a 'desired' human being. Whether that was on the grounds of religion, ethnic provenance or whatever - there was no justification.

This afternoon, 70 years after Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army, several survivors stood up and spoke of their experiences and impressions. Clergymen spoke out in prayer, according to the rites of their religion.

Politics was also given a place at the Auschwitz commemoration, as controversially as ten years ago. When seventeen people were shot and killed in Paris on January 7th, four of them were in a Jewish supermarket. I am still aghast that their remains were spirited out of France, for interment in the state of Israel. These were French citizens, born in France. One of the dead was a Muslim policeman. I watched an unsanitized version of his death on TV. I am fiercely opposed to discrimination. I am fiercely opposed to the persecution of Jews, Muslims or Christians (or adherents to any faith), on any pretext. I am just as fiercely opposed to what is sometimes termed positive discrimination, giving someone preferential treatment, again on account of faith or whatever. We should not single out Jews for protection against persecution. All people should be able to profess their faith, whatever their faith may be, without fear of persecution.

That should be the message of Auschwitz.
That IS the message of Auschwitz.